Ross County 0 Celtic 2: Immediate response to the burning issues
A clash with relegation-threatened County in Dingwall was potentially troublesome for the visitors. The defending champions had not played together for 15 days due to the international break and several key players were absent through injury.
Ange Postecoglou’s charges were certainly made to work for their victory by Malky Mackay’s men. Only in added time at the end of the first half did Bayern take the lead with a penalty after a VAR check. Jota made no mistake from 12 meters.
Kyogo Furuhashi, substitute Hyeong-gyu Oh and Jota had every second-half opportunity to celebrate their 15th straight national triumph and didn’t take it.
It was a bit more nerve-wracking than it needed to be for the fans in the 6,619 strong crowd.
But Alexandro Bernabei, who had replaced Greg Taylor in the second minute, fired a screamer in the fifth minute of added time to open his account for Celtic and pick up three hard-fought but deserved points.
Here are five things we learned as the league leaders took another small step towards defending their title in Scotland.
VAR SPOT ON
Confusion reigned across the country as proceedings were dropped just before half-time when VAR official Steven Kirkland checked a Matt O’Riley corner into county area at Clydesdale House in Glasgow.
And there was disbelief from home fans when referee Willie Collum awarded Celtic a penalty after watching an incident on the pitch monitor.
However, the hosts could have few complaints about the verdict. During the recording, the ball clearly hit the outstretched arm of their captain Alex Iacovitti. Cameron Carter-Vickers must have claimed him immediately.
The new technology has won few admirers since its introduction in this country in October. There have even been calls for it to be scrapped lately. But it allowed Collum to get a crucial call right this afternoon.
With bottom-placed Dundee United losing 2-0 to Rangers at Ibrox yesterday, County was in no danger of slipping to the bottom of the table this afternoon.
Still, after four defeats in their last five games, the Highlanders were keen to bolster their hopes of survival with a result, even a draw, against their Glasgow opponents in time. It should not be. But they certainly gave a decent portrayal of themselves.
County contained Celtic well. Furuhashi hooked wide, Daizen Maeda tested Ross Laidlaw and Jota overshot twice. But the first time they threatened to fall behind was three minutes before half-time when Taylor sliced inside and hit the post with a long-range shot.
Falling behind after a penalty was a big blow. But they stepped up their efforts in the second half and George Harmon forced a save from goalkeeper Joe Hart. You can take courage from your show for the future.
If County can cut in the last third, it won’t damage them in the remaining eight games.
The continued absences of Reo Hatate and Aaron Mooy resulted in Tomoki Iwata handing his first Celtic start from Postecoglou.
The Japanese defensive midfielder, who was loaned from Yokohama F Marinos to the Scottish champions in December, has made seven appearances as a substitute to date and has impressed viewers with his performances. He certainly played his part in the Viaplay Cup final win over Rangers in Hampden in February.
But how would the four-time international fare after kick-off? He slotted in alongside his skipper, Callum McGregor, in the middle of the park and just behind playmaker O’Riley, and played with aplomb. He was cool under pressure and distributed the ball well.
Both Hatate and Mooy should be back for the Rangers game. But they have a more than capable understudy if they don’t recover from their beatings in time. Iwata’s performance underscored Postecoglou’s strength in any position to deal with a demanding game plan.
Taylor was dropped from Scotland’s squad for the Euro 2024 double header against Cyprus and Spain last month to allow him to recover from the minor injury he was struggling with.
The rest was obviously good for the left-back. Hitting the post, he tested Laidlaw with shots from his weaker right foot for the first 45 minutes.
The former Kilmarnock man limped off injured in the second half and was replaced by Bernabei. The Argentine defender capped the triumph over death in fine style.
However, Postecoglou hopes the man who has been one of his most consistent players this season will take on Rangers next weekend.
Mackay handed promising young centre-back Dylan Smith, who is only 16, a first start and gave the youngster the unenviable task of marking for Furuhashi.
Mackay chose not to move Smith to a Highland League club earlier in the season because he felt the Scotland Under-17 international was good enough to feature for his first-team.
He turned out to be right. He came on as a substitute in his debut against Rangers at Ibrox in August and has made four other appearances to date.
The Inverness-born defender, who got the nod ahead of county club captain Keith Watson, was well-placed to make a McGregor delivery clear early on in his area. After that he didn’t look over the top at all.
Smith let Maeda past him in the second half and was lucky to see Furuhashi shoot wide after being supplied by his teammate. But he clearly has a bright future ahead of him.
https://www.heraldscotland.com/sport/football/23429469.ross-county-0-celtic-2-instant-reaction-burning-issues/?ref=rss Ross County 0 Celtic 2: Immediate response to the burning issues